Friday, October 20, 2017

Follow the money on Prop 2: big bucks on one side of coal & oil train initiative

Posted By on Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 10:52 AM

NOTE: This post was updated Tuesday, Oct. 24 with up-to-date donation amounts.

As ballots arrive in mailboxes this week, the Inlander is covering the decisions local voters will be asked to make.

Among the issues Spokane voters will see on their ballot is Proposition 2, which asks whether the city should make it a civil infraction for anyone to bring uncovered coal train cars or rail cars of untreated crude oil through the city, subject to a $261 fine per rail car.

Proponents say the measure is necessary to increase safety as an oil train derailment with explosion could devastate downtown. Opponents say the measure is illegal and unenforceable, and would not only be costly but could eliminate local railroad jobs.

Both sides got to expand on their positions in our story this week, which you can find here.

What didn't make the cut was a look at who has been funding the pro and con campaigns:

Safer Spokane’s committee was initially wrongly registered with the Public Disclosure Commission as “Proposition 2” instead of “Safer Spokane,” says Safer Spokane chairman Jim Lee. That has since been updated.

Safer Spokane reported collecting a total of $6,269.68, of which about $5,200 has been spent. The largest single donations are $1,000 each from retirees Michael Bell (who donated a total of $2,150 to the campaign over several months) and Candace Schmidt (who donated a total of $1,300).

Other smaller donations came from the United Unitarian Church and other people who mostly listed their occupations as “retired.”

The Committee to Protect Spokane’s Economy reports collecting $244,953.75 so far. Of that, it's reported spending about $26,300. 

Nearly all donations to the committee came from a handful of rail, coal and oil companies.

The largest single donations to the committee came from Lighthouse Resources, Inc., which owns two coal mines in the Powder River Basin, and Millennium Bulk Terminals, which if built in Longview, Washington, would be the largest coal shipping terminal in North America. Lighthouse made two donations totaling $64,500.

BNSF Railway also has donated $64,500.

Cloud Peak Energy, also a Powder River Basin coal company and backer of another major coal terminal proposal in Western Washington, gave $50,000.

Giving $25,000 a piece were Union Pacific railway and Tesoro, and Montana Rail Link gave $10,000.

The only other donations came from two individuals, who gave a combined $150.

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...